Logger's family hail verdict

ROBIN RAYMOND
Last updated 13:34 20/12/2012

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Almost two years after he was killed in a logging accident, Peter Cowan's family say they finally have closure. His daughter, Leeanne McCarrison, said it had been a long, hard wait, made worse by rumours Mr Cowan had somehow been at fault for the accident, but the court verdict last week had cleared her father's name.

"We can move on now. We'll never forget him, but we can move on."

The Marlborough logger was working for Blacklaws Logging clearing trees in the Awatere Valley on February 17 last year when he was killed by a falling branch.

In the Blenheim District Court on Thursday, Blacklaws Logging was fined $86,400 and ordered to pay $65,000 reparation to his family. However, because Blacklaws Logging went out of business after the accident with limited funds in its accounts, the fine was cut to $20,000.

In January, the company had denied a charge of failing to take practical steps to ensure the safety of an employee, but Renwick-based owner Dean Blacklaws pleaded guilty last month.

The court was told Mr Cowan and two others were felling trees on Glenlee Station when they saw a dead branch resting across three trees. Mr Cowan, who had been chainsawing one of the trees was walking away when an excavator driver started pushing the tree over. The dead branch fell and crushed Mr Cowan.

Miss McCarrison said the judge's words showed how simple the accident would have been to avoid.

"A tin of paint, or tape, radios or seeing Dad in the safety zone could have prevented it, but as the judge said, it's too little, too late."

Mr Cowan's widow, Anne Cowan, said the end of the court process was a relief and she thanked her family and friends for their support.

Her husband started working in forestry at age 15 and had had only one year away from the bush, she said. A year before his death he tried to retire and the couple set up a cleaning business, but he went back after a month because he was missing the bush too much.

Miss McCarrison said her father was a hard-working man and a rock for the family, always there with advice. Four years ago he had been reunited with his son, Michael, and had been planning to visit him in Australia when he died.

Mr Blacklaws said he also hoped Mr Cowan's family could find some closure. The incident had been "one of the worst days of my life" and had destroyed his business and taken a big toll on his family, he said.

The wait for information and expert advice had caused the delay in pleading guilty, which was "not something that you take lightly".

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- The Marlborough Express

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